Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Signs of Spring

What weird weather we're having at the moment. Yesterday, I was walking along the river in mild spring air, with blue sky and the sun shining above my head. Today, I woke up to it snowing vertically. The sky is a dull lead grey and the snow has turned into rain, but the grass in the park around the university campus is still white. And this afternoon, we'll have winds up to a 100 km/h apparently.

But spring is definitely on its way, the signs are unmistakable and everywhere. On Sunday late afternoon, I grabbed my camera and went out to look for the sings around my neighbourhood, and I found some leftovers from past seasons too. I love the macro option on my new lens!

Snowdrops are appearing everywhere. They're such delicate, beautiful heralds of spring. It's always a joy to see - and capture - them.

As are the catkins, with their soft fluffy heads reaching up into the air. You just want to reach out and touch them.

Many signs of the past seasons are still around, and they add to the charm of this time of transition, like these withered dog rose seed pods.

The Chinese Lantern is such a beautiful plant. And it looks good in every state, with its papery husk, but especially in this delicate, filigree state of decay.

I haven't had much to post for the past couple of weeks. It's not that I haven't done any drawing or painting, but there just isn't anything to show, really. But I enjoyed taking my camera out, and doing some photo editing right afterwards for a change, instead of just letting my photos sleep on their hard drive. I should do this more often.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Discovering oil painting

I am so glad I took that introduction to oil painting course last Saturday! It was exactly what I wanted/needed. I just wish I had discovered this course earlier! But hey, better late than never, right? We were a nice and small group of only six plus the teacher, and the atmosphere was relaxed and cheerful. We started with a short introduction and our expectations/wishes for the course. My expectations were simple: I wanted to lose my fear of oils, especially the mediums, by learning about the materials, and how to use them (safely). And that's exactly what I learnt. Plus a whole lot more.

We plunged straight into the matter with an exercise. We each took a sheet of painting paper, squeezed some paints on our palettes, grabbed a couple of brushes, and filled a bit of terpentine substitute into a jar. And then we just had to play. I'm sure we all felt the same: But how? What are we supposed to do? Just do it, said the teacher. Try it out. With solvent, without, mix the colours, on the palette, on the paper, whatever you want to do, just do it, and see what happens. And so we did. And it was a great way to start, it was discovering oil paints.

After that, we talked a bit more theory. My fears of burning down the house are, indeed, not completely unfounded. There have indeed been cases of studio fires, or builder's vans burning, but they were all down to the same cause: linseed oil. When linseed oil has a big enough surface, like those old rags with lots of threads and fibres, that is then scrunched up and thrown away into a container, it can go up in flames. So if you want to use it, it's a good idea to wash out your rags and hang them outside to dry. But to stay on the safe side, just avoid linseed oil altogether. All you need, really, is a solvent like (odourless) terpentine substitute (unless you absolutely want to use the real stuff), which can be used for both painting and cleaning your brushes.

After the lunch break, we looked at and talked a bit about different painting styles and technique, to get an idea of what you can do with oils (basically pretty much everything), and then we each chose a postcard with a motive we liked, took a small canvas, and started painting. I chose a painting of a tea cup by Henri Fantin-Latour, because I like my cup of tea, and I wanted to try a more traditional style with lights and shadows and a dark background. So here it is, my first proper oil painting. I still want to work a bit more on it, maybe letting it dry first, and then add another layer, but I'm quite pleased with how it turned out (despite the rather bent spoon).

I can't believe we did all we did in a one day class! I went home feeling confident about how to use the paints and solvent, and now I just want to play, experiment and practice lots more.

And another funny thing happened too. One I thing I also remembered from my first attempt at oil painting over 3 years ago, and that was the quite strong smell, despite the "odourless" solvent. The same happened when we started with our first exercise. I could not only smell the odourless solvent, I also felt a stinging sensation in my eyes. Would I ever get used to that, or would that mean the end of oil painting for me? But then, in the afternoon, after my fear of the medium had been dissolved, I suddenly realised that I found that the odours didn't bother me anymore, and that in fact, I found them quite pleasant. Isn't it funny, how your perception can change so quickly when your attitude changes?

I didn't do any drawing this week, I started reading The Girl on the Train on Tuesday morning, and I just couldn't stop reading! I finished it yesterday, so now I can go back to my pens and pencils, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with my oil paints at the weekend.

Have a great, creative weekend!